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Overview of contraception

Mimi Zieman, MD
Section Editor
Robert L Barbieri, MD
Deputy Editor
Kristen Eckler, MD, FACOG


Individuals choose to use contraception for many reasons:

All contraceptives provide control over the timing of pregnancy and avoidance of unintended pregnancy

Condoms provide protection from sexually transmitted infections

Hormonal contraceptives provide noncontraceptive health benefits (table 1)

A systematic review estimated contraceptive prevalence among women of reproductive age who were married or in a union was 63 percent worldwide and 77 percent in the United States [1]. Nevertheless, unintended pregnancy is a common problem. In a study from the Guttmacher Institute using data from several sources, 49 percent of the 6.7 million pregnancies in the United States in 2006 were unintended [2]. About 5 percent of women of reproductive age had an unintended pregnancy that year, comprising 3.2 million pregnancies. The demographic characteristics of these women are shown in the table (table 2). Forty-three percent of the unintended pregnancies were terminated. These alarmingly high statistics occurred even though most women reported using some form of contraception [3]. The high rate of unintended pregnancy despite contraception highlights the importance of understanding contraceptive efficacy in terms of typical, rather than perfect, use (see 'Effectiveness' below).


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Literature review current through: Jun 2015. | This topic last updated: Jul 22, 2015.
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